Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fred's Not Dead -- -Yet


Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

Fred's Not Dead -- Yet

Fred Thompson's campaign, left for dead after a lackluster effort in last fall's run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire, is showing some signs of life in South Carolina. On the days of the New Hampshire primary, Thompson headed south and began digging in for what could be his last stand.

Is it paying off? Yes and no. According to the latest Palmetto Poll, conducted by the University of Clemson, Thompson remains in a distant fourth, garnering just 10 percent. John McCain leads the GOP race with 29 percent, Mike Huckabee gets 22 percent and Mitt Romney is third with 13 percent. In the August Palmetto Poll, Thompson led the field with 19 percent.

But while Thompson's poll numbers might not be soaring, his rhetoric has gotten sharper over these past ten days. Just yesterday, the former Tennessee senator took aim at each one of those currently ahead of him. Thompson accused Romney of pandering and said his approach to the economy is less-than conservative. "Romney was very effective in Michigan doing what he does best and that is tailoring his message to a particular audience," said Thompson. "He basically - as I could pick up with it - promised that the federal government was going to come in and bail out Michigan when he got elected president. Very conservative notion, don't you think?

While taking it easier on his longtime friend McCain, Thompson still managed to get in a dig about his support for last year's failed immigration reform bill. "I knew that he was on the wrong track," he said of McCain. "And the American people said so and they rejected that bill." Thompson then took aim at Huckabee. "At least McCain's record's been out there for about 20 years. We've got some Johnny-come-latelies now that don't want to talk about their record and they're hoping there's not enough time for anybody to even to examine it, because where they've been in the past."

This is the feisty Thompson that has been on display at the most recent debates and it's made him a much different candidate than the laconic manner in which he carried himself throughout the fall and early winter. Despite the rejuvenation, it may be too little, too late even in an incredibly jumbled and unpredictable field.

But Thompson could prove to be a spoiler in the race. After finishing second in Michigan, McCain needs a win in South Carolina to reclaim the small burst of New Hampshire momentum which vaulted him to the top of national polls. Huckabee needs a victory in South Carolina to prove that his Iowa win was no fluke and that his claims of Southern appeal are solid. (Romney's win Tuesday takes some of the pressure off of him in a state that would be difficult for him under most circumstances). Between McCain and Huckabee, who does Thompson pull support from most? Should he win on Saturday, McCain might want to throw Thompson onto the list of people he needs to thank.

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